Chesterfield Board chairman clarifies comments about immigrant students

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CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- On Wednesday night, Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman, Dorothy Jaeckle publicly addressed the recent comments she made during a work session earlier this month.

"I think the comments were taken out of context," she said.

The comments made at a public work session regarding immigrant students and non-native English speakers in the classroom.

"I just think it would be very difficult as a teacher to try to teach all day or most of the day when you don't understand what the student is saying and the student doesn't understand what you're saying," said Jaeckle. "That's what it was all about, I was just surprised that students are not required to have a higher level proficiency in English before they are in the regular classroom."

Dorothy Jaeckle

Jaeckle was asking leaders not to allocate funding that would go toward reducing class sizes that had English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) students, but instead have money go toward regular classrooms.

The Chairwoman defended her comments saying that's only half true.

"We didn't say we didn't support or recognize the need for ESOL, we just said that money had been budgeted for PTR or reduction in bringing back of the electives," she said.

The comments were recorded during that public work session on March 15.

Jaeckle also came under fire for a comment she made concerning the nationwide “Day Without Immigrants.”

“That day when the immigrants held their children home, teachers said it was so nice to have a whole class that understood English,” said Jaeckle earlier this month. “So that is impacting our schools. I understand the increased ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages), but I also think we were looking just to reduce the regular class. So I don’t know, it’s a challenge.”

Dorothy Jaeckle

Wednesday, she clarified the context behind the quote.

"The remark about immigration day, the only context in that was a teacher just commented that they didn't realize how much the language barrier was impeding their ability to communicate with their students," said Jaeckle.

Dot Heffron is an ESOL tutor in Chesterfield County.

"These students are hard workers," said Heffron. "They're not a burden."

She said she wasn't happy with the comments made by Jaeckle

"I was hurt, I was angered and I was disappointed that that was coming from a county leader," she said.

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